The guitar pick is probably the cheapest but most essential guitar accessory out there! Choosing a guitar pick that suits your particular performance style, preferences, and the sound is really important. But there a few things to consider when weighing up whether one is better than another.
Choosing the material of your guitar pick
Most electric guitarists today use plastic or nylon picks and have been doing so for decades. Some perceive nylon picks to have a “brighter” sound and are more flexible than their plastic counterparts. In fact, the Herco Flex 75 nylon pick has become famous as being favored by Jimmy Page - Led Zepplin’s lead guitarist!
Other types of materials are on the market as well as options for guitar picks, including stone, wood and even leather and gemstones. For a crisper sound quality, opt for harder and denser materials, whereas for warmer sounds go for a softer material instead.
Choosing the shape of your guitar pick
You may think that picks always come in that classic triangular shape. In fact, there are nuances to this design which influences the sound and style of your playing. Some performers favor picks with pointier tips, which is advantageous for increasing precision, articulation and control (especially for jazz music).
There are also teardrop shapes, fin shapes, and equilateral triangles. By having a greater contact surface you can get a more rounded overall sound. Someone who’s well known for the triangular picks is Daron Malakian from System of a Down with his Fender Triangle.
Choosing the thickness of your guitar pick
Guitar picks are available in a range of thicknesses, which have a direct impact on the sounds that are produced when using them. For a lighter sound using a thinner pick within the .4 and .6 mm range. These are also better for acoustic strumming, as opposed to rock guitars or when you need more bass or midrange notes.
Medium gauge picks are the most popular choice of thickness, generally being .6 and .8 mm, due to their ideal balance of flexibility and rigidity. This makes them useful for a whole variety of performance styles, which is particularly great for those who don’t have a specific specialty or just enjoy playing a mix of genres.
Finally, there are the thicker picks, which are anything with a thickness greater than .8 mm. These heavier choices are the most firm, which is needed for killer guitar solos and power chords. The particularly thick picks nearing and even exceeding 1.5mm are most popular among jazz guitarists and metalheads alike! For example, the 1.38 mm Dunlop Jazz III is played by heavy metal star Kirk Hammett from Metallica.
Experiment until you find your favorites
It’s a great idea to experiment with and try out a whole variety of different picks. You might gravitate to one particular style, or perhaps you’ll find you like to use different ones for certain genres or types of songs. Overall though, take into consideration the material, shape, and thickness when choosing a pick, until you find the pick that is perfect for you.